Helping A Feline Cope With Her ‘Golden Years’

Dear Porky & Buddy,

My cat Cleo is ten years old and she is finally beginning to slow down after a lifetime of relentlessly chasing little pink mice all over the house. But I don’t want her to slow down too much. Are there things I should watch for or things I should do to make sure that these upcoming years are good for her?


Dear Sara,

Cats usually begin to show visible age-related changes at about seven to twelve years of age. It sounds like Cleo is doing just that. As a cat ages, health issues may arise, including: deterioration of skin and coat, loss of muscle mass, more frequent intestinal problems, arthritis, obesity, dental problems, and a decreased ability to fight off infection.

Some of this change is unavoidable, just as it is for humans. But some of it can be managed with diet.

If you haven’t already, you should start Cleo on a senior diet. You want to maintain her health and optimum body weight, slow or prevent the development of chronic disease, and minimize or improve clinical signs of diseases that may already be present.

Obesity is the one problem you really need to watch for and the one that you can effectively avoid. Older cats sometimes progressively put on body fat in spite of consuming fewer calories.

This change in body composition may be aggravated by either reduced energy expenditure or a change in metabolic rate. Either way, it is important to feed a diet with a lower caloric density to avoid weight gain, but with a normal protein level to help maintain muscle mass.

Talk to your veterinarian about increasing Cleo’s vitamin E intake. Antibody response decreases as cats age.

But increasing the intake of vitamin E in cats older than seven years of age can increase their antibody levels back to those seen in younger cats! Antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene help eliminate free radical particles that can damage body tissues and cause signs of aging. Senior diets for cats should contain higher levels of these antioxidant compounds.

Antioxidants can also increase the effectiveness of the immune system in senior cats.

Routine care for Cleo, as with all aging pets, should involve a consistent daily routine and periodic veterinary examinations. Try to avoid stressful situations and abrupt changes in her daily routines.

If a drastic change must be made to her routine, try to minimize stress and to realize the change in a gradual manner. What you want for Cleo in these coming years is that she is a happy, relaxed, and svelte old lady, the same thing that you will want for yourself in your senior years!

Another way to make Cleo happy and “young” again is to get her a new playmate, a real one, not those dopey pink mice.

You can do that by just coming to the Pet Adoption Extravaganza sponsored by the Tractor Supply Company on  March 10 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Route 104 East in Oswego. We’ll be there with lots of adorable pets for you to choose from.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter assistance, information and referral, adoption assistance to pet owners, humane education programs, foster care and adoption for pets in urgent need,
assistance with lost and found pets.

Our administrative offices and spay/neuter clinic are located at 265 W. First St., Oswego.

Check our web site at www.oswegohumane.org or call (315) 207-1070 for more information or to be placed on our mailing list for our newsletter.